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Heated High School Hoops Rivalry Packs the House

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USC and UCLA, Lakers and Clippers, Angelina and Jennifer, Pink's and Carney's. Rivalries are as much a part of LA as the smog filled air we breathe.

Friday night, one of those rivalries was on display before a sold out, standing room only crowd. Students, parents, basketball fans and college coaches a like squeezed into the tight confines of Fairfax High School's gymnasium to watch two of the city's best high school basketball programs lock up.

The Westchester/Fairfax matchup brought together two teams that are ranked in the top 25 basketball teams in the entire country but are only separated by a 27 minute drive. Westchester, lead by their plethora of perimeter players and USC-bound power forward Dwayne Polee Jr., came in to Friday night's game with a record of 16-1 and ranked number five in the country by MaxPreps. MaxPrep's 25th ranked squad, Fairfax, backed by 6'11 junior Renardo Sidney and another future Trojan in Solomon Hill, hit their home hardwood with a record of 12-2.

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With cameras flashing, USC head coach Tim Floyd watching and LA Times live blogging this clash of the titans did not disappoint. Actually, the atmosphere alone was worth the price of admission.

Sporting their LeBron James branded home whites, the Lions of Fairfax came out fired up. Jumping out to an early lead thanks to sharp shooting from Sidney. The big man, who many project will be a lottery pick in the 2011 draft (yes, there are people who are making projections for the 2011 draft) knocked down three 3-pointers early.

The Westchester Comets, however, were able to withstand Fairfax's early offensive onslaught and loud roars from an upbeat, energetic student section to take a 19-17 lead after the first quarter. Westchester would hold on to that lead throughout the first half, taking a 39-31 lead into the locker room thanks to 14 first half points from junior point guard Jordin Mayes.

A nine point run to start the second half gave Fairfax back the lead at 42-41, but that was short-lived. The guards of Westchester were too much for Fairfax, lighting up with 3-pointer after 3-pointer which quieted the Fairfax faithful. Westchester's section of the gym was anything but quiet, despite being outnumbered.

A late run fueled by Sidney, who dominated in the fourth quarter finishing with a game-high 32 points was not enough to give the home team a win. Lead by a 22 point performance from senior guard Dominique O'Connor, who says is headed to either Montana State or San Francisco, and 17 from Mayes, Westchester claimed a 78-73 victory in the latest chapter in this rivalry.

For the hundreds of people who were turned away at the door (the game was sold out by the 5:30 tip-off of the junior varsity game) and those who were unaware of the elite level of basketball talent found at the high school ranks in Los Angeles, the two teams will tangle again on February 6th at Westchester.

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